Indigenous women get the employment supports needed with help from government funds

·4 min read

The Alberta government announced that almost $900,000 in funding through the Employment Partnerships Program will go to the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW) for programming support.

The grant for 2021/22 addresses three areas of the IAAW; $292,000 for the Job Readiness Navigator Program, $240,350 for the Job Retention Navigator Program and $249,500 for the Systems Navigator Program.

The programs focus on job readiness, retention and improved access to vital services. They help participants build skills and confidence by offering customized plans to help develop career paths, from pre-employment training and education to long-term achievements in the workplace.

The IAAW will also provide advocacy, referrals and strategies for mental health, housing, transportation, child care and assistance navigating the justice system.

“These programs are designed to support Indigenous women, and they, like so many other women, have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rachelle Venne, CEO of IAAW.

“These programs are so important in helping Indigenous women bounce back, addressing the barriers that were present before the pandemic that may now be magnified.”

The funding is the second of a five-year allocation by the government.

“The Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women is very important to us and they do a lot of great work for us,” said Rick Wilson, minister of Indigenous Relations.

“To be able to partner there we found, especially coming out of COVID, that the economic security is going to be central to helping Indigenous women to getting back into the workforce.”

IAAW offers a variety of courses, including financial literacy, healthy relationships, employment, training and justice initiatives.

It is estimated there will be about 50 women who will access the funding supported through the Job Readiness Navigator program, and another 35 who will access the Job Retention Navigator Program. In 2020/21 the program was able to provide funding access to 95 women and their families.

“These programs, these services, they are going to be vital,” said Wilson. “They are going to give us those basic necessities for child care, transportation and just to navigate the justice system.”

In addition, explained Wilson, $115,000 was dedicated to the annual operations budget of the IAAW with $15,000 being allocated to the 2022 Esquao Awards.

The awards ceremony, set to take place at River Cree Resort-Entertainment Centre at Enoch Cree Nations on May 13, recognizes Indigenous women from across Alberta who have given to the community in a variety of areas.

Recipients are nominated by their communities for advancements in and commitment to the following categories; business, culture, children’s future, lifetime achievement, community involvement, health and medicine, and education.

Shannon Lust from Spruce Grove, Alta. is one of the recipients for her work within category of children’s future.

Lust is the director of Maskekosak Newowacistwan Natamakewin Society at Enoch Cree Nation.

“We are the children, youth and family support for the Enoch Cree Nation,” explained Lust about her position. “As we are moving towards direction under Bill C-92 (An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families), we will also be taking over children’s services under our area.”

Since she began working as director, Lust said she has felt the important role it plays within the community.

She is extremely honoured to be a recipient at the upcoming gala, she said, and recognizes how important the government funding is for the women it reaches and ultimately the communities.

“What’s most important with women being recognized is that in our traditional cultures, the majority of us are matriarchal,” she said. “So it was the women that were the decision makers, the chiefs and the heads of ensuring the communities ran smoothly and had the proper supports.

“I feel the government providing funding for programs like this and awards is, it’s—I don’t want to say an act of reconciliation— but it can be a move towards them recognizing our inherent right and how we inherently ran our communities. I feel that’s important that it is out in the spotlight.”

Since its inception 26 years ago, the Esquao Awards Gala has recognized almost 500 women from 90 communities across Alberta.

By Crystal St.Pierre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,,

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